UMass Amherst gaming researchers update commission on project - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

UMass Amherst gaming researchers update commission on project

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Last year the Massachusetts Gaming Commission selected the University of Massachusetts to research the social and economic impacts of an urban casino in the state. The research team gave an update on the first phase of the project on Tuesday. 

Researchers gathered at UMass to report their progress on the gambling impacts study to the gaming commission. This study is unique because the research is an integral part of the regulatory process. 

"The key thing is to get baseline data that we can compare to before the casino starts. That's why we're rushing to get this, there's a big survey in the field right now to see what is the status of casino gambling or any kinds of problem gambling in Massachusetts now," said Stephen Crosby, Massachusetts Gaming Commission chair. 

The gambling impacts study will not come to a halt once a casino is built.

"So then we'll be able to track the impact on that so once the casino opens in 2016 or 2017, then we'll be able to track the change between all these variables including problem gambling from before casino gambling started," said Crosby.

UMass associate professor Rachel Volberg said there are four major parts in the baseline phase consisting of an economic impact team, social and health team, a population survey and evaluating the services that are available to problem gamblers in the state right now. 

"It's very unusual to sort of start with a clean base line then be able to watch the changes roll out over time and also have the opportunity to feed resources into it, to mitigate and minimize harm," said Volberg.

Crosby said the expected May 30 date for awarding the gaming license in Springfield still looks good. There are still arbitrations going on with two surrounding communities, but we're told that should wrap up soon. He said it's key to get baseline data to compare before discussion begins in May. 

"This is going to be real data driven so we can tweak this law and make it as good as it can possibly be and it will be data that will inform gambling regulators all across the world. Because the data is so unusual and so unique," said Crosby.

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